Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Your daughter has a nice tan"

(Maya - 17 months)

A few months ago, I was out and about running errands with Maya, and I went into the bank and one of the ladies was coo-cooing over her (as usual!) This happens everywhere we go, so I'm used to it. The lady went on to ask what's her name, age, and play with her a bit. Then she said, "Oh, she has such a nice tan!" Preoccupied, I said, "oh yeah, well...it was really hot this summer" and then my bank business was finished and I left.

As I left, I started to feel a bit weird. What was that lady talking about? How can she have a tan? I always kept her in the shade and I only took her to the beach in the evenings! I said to myself, with my mom-guilt/worry kicking in...(skin cancer runs in my family)

Then I realized that she was talking about her skin color. The lady didn't realize that Maya isn't fully Caucasian - she just thought she was some Caucasian baby with a summer tan!

Well, I can't exactly blame her...even the Indian ladies at the post office were shocked to find out Maya's half-Indian...

Indian post office lady: "Oh, how cute, what's her name?"
Me: "Her name is Maya"
Indian post office lady: "You know that's an Indian name, it means 'illusion'"
Me: "Yes, I know"
Indian post office lady: "Why did you pick an Indian name? Why not something like Katie or Sarah?"
Me: "Well, her father is Tamil"
Indian post office lady (looking shocked): "But she's so fair! (she yells to the back) Kalpana - come look at this baby! Father is Indian! Look how fair!"
(more coo-cooing)

So, I guess to Indians, she is "fair"; and for Westerners, she has that lovely "tan"....the best of both worlds! 

A big question about intercultural children is always about their looks - especially the more diverse the couple. People are always wondering what traits the child will inherit, or if they will look more like one culture than another. One of the things that bothers me is that there is so much discussion and emphasis on their looks - but I guess it is just curiosity. We are a rare mix, after all...(only 7.1% of India-born males marry white females - 2001 US census)

As every parent knows, a child exhibits likeness to everyone in the family...and what a diverse family we have! At any given moment, sometimes she looks like me, husband-ji, both our parents, her great-grandma Shambagavalli or great-grandma Mary Josephine....she looks like everyone! And my mum has said, she looks more Indian when she is with the Indian side, and she looks more European next to my side - like a total chameleon. In my opinion, she looks equally like both of us. For example, her smile is just like mine, and her grumpy face is just like husband-ji's (hee hee! But so true!)

(She looks like my dad too...)

I wonder, as she gets older - being racially ambiguous-looking - I wonder what her experience will be, fitting into both cultures...? So, looking equally as Indian as she does Western...I wonder if she can find acceptance in both cultures. Or rather than "finding acceptance" in both cultures, I hope she accepts parts of both cultures...

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Related articles:
10 Things you should never say to the parent of a mixed race child

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What do you think, dear readers? For those of you who have mixed kids, how much do their looks play into what others process them as? Have they accepted parts of both cultures - and if so, what parts?



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13 comments

  1. Alexandra, having a mixed race child myself, with skin color right in the middle of brown and white, I've noticed that my husband gets asked a lot more questions than I do. For e.g., my husband has reported that when he has gone shopping with our daughter, he is often asked if she is his (my husband is white, about as white as white can get- I'm surprised he doesn't sparkle like Edward from the Twilight series :-)). I love the fact that people find it so hard to place my daughter in to a racial and ethnic slot- I like confounding people :-). Her name is pretty 'international' too, so you can't tell much from that either. As our daughter grows older, we will have to see which category she chooses to place herself in.

    I wanted to say Thank You for writing. I don't think I've ever left so many comments on a blog before- there is so much I identify with and I don't really have anyone around where I live to talk with about multicultural relationships and what they are like.

    Raina.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you like my blog! :) we are in the same boat...no South Whindian couples around us either! So happy to find others like us :)
      I think if I was blonde, I would definitely get the "is she adopted" etc. Sometimes I wonder if my husband feels left out because he thinks she looks more like me, although I'm quite pale at the moment. I see a lot of him in her, though. Maybe if we have a son, he will get his mini-me!
      What is your daughter's name? How old is she?

      Delete
  2. The World would certainly be a more integrated place by then, I'm sure. And yes, the whole skin / looks thing is a curiosity thing - Kudos to you for taking it in the right spirit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks mama! I hope so, I hope there are lots more half-Indian couples by then!

      Delete
  3. You will be surprised to know that Many Indian actresses and models have one indian and one caucasian parent. Katrina kaif, Diya Mirza , Lisa Ray are few names.May be Mixed race people inherit good features from both parents so its easier for them to make career in it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I did know! Lisa Ray is one of my favorites because she is a fellow Canadian. The actresses are so gorgeous.

      Delete
  4. hahhaha.....people just need reason to co coo

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  5. Totally, if it's not coo-cooing over their looks then it will be over their baby clothes and shoes....hahaha!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I totally understand this whole thing! I've gotten this for 19 years, since my oldest was born! Most recently, our clan was at a Kentucky family gathering with distant cousins whom I hadn't seen since my childhood. One of my cousins, who had no idea I was married to an Indian, pointed out my teenage son across the room and said, "He looks like a little Indian boy. Where did he come from?"
    I just laughed and said he IS a little Indian boy, and he came from me. :)
    Your daughter is gorgeous! And if she's like my daughter, she will grow to love her unique looks. :) And I think that if you raise her to love her uniqueness, her confidence will guarantee her acceptance by the people who matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Sheryl - OMG, I was thinking of you after I wrote this post because you have 5 kids and often wonder about their journey, as they all look so different, yet so alike! I could literally stare at your family photo header for hours! :)
      I hope she will love her uniqueness...best of both worlds!

      Delete
  7. I don't think I can recall an incident where either my wife or I was put under the microscope regarding the ethnicity of our daughter. There are 2 possible explanation for this. One, our daughter is a very good mix of the two of us, and she looks both Indian and Caucasian at the same time. If she is with either of the parents, she looks their progeny. If she is with both of us, it is evident that she came from us both! The second explanation is that I'm impervious to supposedly insensitive comments. I always assume that the person who is asking the question is either not doing it out of malice, or is so in the dark that it is my duty to forgive them. :)

    I pretty sure we'll be able to instill sufficient knowledge in our daughter as she's growing up, that she will be able to find her own identity, .

    ~ Krishanu

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was quite shocked when it happened, actually. It has happened to me more when I'm out with her by myself, and of course it never happens when we are both there, as it is obvious like you said!
      I wish I was more impervious...it would be better for me!

      Delete
  8. We also get a lot of comments what a nice taint he got from Europeans. In China however the people complain how dark he is..

    ReplyDelete

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